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Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by Robin Garr » Wed Oct 31, 2018 9:15 am

Order Like a Pro

By Marsha Lynch

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I know – you're wondering if I'm really getting ready to school you on how to order food at a restaurant. This is a task nearly everyone does dozens (if not hundreds) of times a year. There's no one special trick that will vault you over other diners to an extra level of respect from a restaurant's staff, but I can offer a few pointers that might get you a higher standard of service when you're dining out.

First, you should make a reservation at all but the most casual dining spots. No matter what day of the week it is and no matter what time you're showing up. Even a half an hour in advance is better than no notice at all. That way, you'll be expected, your table will be as ready as possible, and a server will likely already have been assigned to you.

If you have a chance, look over the menu in advance (unless you already have it by heart). I don't mean you need to decide what you're ordering before you walk in the door – after all, your appetite may be tempted by certain aromas or an enticing description of the evening's specials once you arrive. But be aware of what kind of cuisine they offer there, what the general price range is, and if they have a theme (like, maybe don't try to order an egg white omelet for dinner at a fancy seafood joint).

Give your server the tools to help them provide you with the best possible service. This includes indicating the tempo at which you plan to dine, (barring surprises) if it's outside the realm of normal pacing. For instance: if you're on a time limit because of a show opening, simply let him know soon after you're seated, as in “hey, we have an eight o'clock curtain time, so we'll want to leave here by 7:30 if at all possible.” Conversely, if you're catching up with friends you haven't been out with for five years, maybe mention you'll be taking your time (“we're not in any hurry this evening”) so he can provide unhurried service and you won't feel rushed.

Also, if you have allergies or sensitivities (or just an abiding hate for garlic), say so early on, and please don't lie. (“I prefer my food lightly salted” rather than “I'm allergic to salt.”)

Don't ask if menu items or specials are good. If a server thinks something's spectacular and not to be missed, they'll tell you. Certainly they're not going to say “I wouldn't order the salmon, it's from last Tuesday” or “the sous chef really isn't very good at mussels,” so don't waste their time and yours by asking.

Speaking of not wasting time, it isn't necessary to read all the adjectives and descriptors from the menu back to your server. Instead of “I'll have the Ethereal Farms Pan-Roasted Rack of Grass-Fed Lamb with sautéed baby vegetables, Israeli couscous, and Tomato-Spearmint beurre blanc.” Just say, “I'll have the lamb, medium rare.” All that other stuff automatically comes with it, you see, unless you request otherwise. And speaking of requesting otherwise: don't. Unless you have health-threatening allergies or severe aversions, let the kitchen prepare you the dish they've planned and practiced, and don't use the menu like a build-a-bear workshop.

And please, tip properly. Remember, servers in Kentucky are allowed to be paid only $2.13 an hour by their employers. It's a crappy system, but it's the one we're stuck with for the time being. Basically, you're on the honor system to help pay them a living wage, so – unless wait staff is actively rude or over-the-top incompetent - tip 20 percent. If there's some reason you feel justified in tipping less, speak to a manager.

Really, the advice I'm giving here can be distilled into a single sentence: A server's time is literally their money. In a way, diners have their end of the dining experience to uphold, too. While a pleasant interaction should be an automatic part of your transaction (and please do enjoy it when it is!), don't waste her time, or your own. There's silver to be rolled, and ketchup bottles to marry – and the curtain is going up at eight with or without you.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square, Fontleroy’s and Harvest.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square, Fontleroy’s and Harvest.

Read it on LouisvilleHotBytes:
http://www.louisvillehotbytes.com/order-like-a-pro

Read it also in LEO Weekly’s Food & Drink section today:
http://www.leoweekly.com/category/food-drink/
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RonnieD

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by RonnieD » Wed Oct 31, 2018 6:03 pm

"And speaking of requesting otherwise: don't. Unless you have health-threatening allergies or severe aversions, let the kitchen prepare you the dish they've planned and practiced, and don't use the menu like a build-a-bear workshop. "

No more important words have ever been spoken. I'd like this printed on every menu and maybe I'll get it tattooed across my forehead.
Ronnie Dingman.
Head Cook, The Kitchen at Gerstle's Place
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Gena W.

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by Gena W. » Wed Oct 31, 2018 11:32 pm

Love this Marsha!
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Gordon M Lowe

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by Gordon M Lowe » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:14 am

I think we all have a tendency to take our daily frustrations out on others, and what it all boils down to is, be nice and treat people like you would want to be treated. It's really that simple.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by Alexis Rich » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:29 pm

Reading this got me thinking if when I ask a server, “what do you recommend?” I’m being obnoxious. I’ll be honest, the tactic has never let me down. Sometimes, if I’m deciding between 2 dishes I’ll ask the server what she/he thinks. My rationale is the server knows what’s good and I’m always happy with what I get.

Is this ok? Or is the server thinking, “Just order your food already, Lady!”
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by Gordon M Lowe » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:42 pm

Just have to say, I love your Queenie Bee avatar, Alexis. :D
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by Alanna H » Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:29 pm

Alexis Rich wrote:Reading this got me thinking if when I ask a server, “what do you recommend?” I’m being obnoxious. I’ll be honest, the tactic has never let me down. Sometimes, if I’m deciding between 2 dishes I’ll ask the server what she/he thinks. My rationale is the server knows what’s good and I’m always happy with what I get.

Is this ok? Or is the server thinking, “Just order your food already, Lady!”


I've also occasionally asked a server what they recommend, and never had any regrets! But two weeks ago I was on a work trip to Austin, TX and one of my co-workers proceeded to ask the server "How's the (insert name of dish) here?" about 5 or 6 different times. We were at an Asian/sushi place, and English was not the server's native language. It was so awkward and had the rest of us rolling our eyes at him. I would never expect a server to say "Oh the (dish) here is awful, I don't recommend it at all!" Either ask for a recommendation and order, or get out the way!
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by RonnieD » Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:40 pm

I don't think "what do you recommend" is as problematic as "what's good?" I hate "what's good?" It's all good, or it wouldn't be on the menu. "What do you recommend" opens the door for the server to make a personal recommendation based on what they like. I think that is a valuable question.

But if you are dining somewhere and ask "what's good?" and the server says, "definitely not the trout," then I think it's time to rethink your choice of establishment.
Ronnie Dingman.
Head Cook, The Kitchen at Gerstle's Place
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by David Swanson » Mon Nov 05, 2018 11:27 pm

RonnieD wrote:But if you are dining somewhere and ask "what's good?" and the server says, "definitely not the trout," then I think it's time to rethink your choice of establishment.


It could be worse. The server could recommend the #3.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by Ray Griffith » Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:21 am

Speaking of not wasting time, it isn’t necessary to read all the adjectives and descriptors from the menu back to your server. Instead of “I’ll have the Ethereal Farms Pan-Roasted Rack of Grass-Fed Lamb with sautéed baby vegetables, Israeli couscous, and Tomato-Spearmint beurre blanc.” Just say, “I’ll have the lamb, medium rare.” All that other stuff automatically comes with it


:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Order Like a Pro

by TimT » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:18 am

Robin Garr wrote:Order Like a Pro

By Marsha Lynch

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I know – you're wondering if I'm really getting ready to school you on how to order food at a restaurant.


Yep. I could tell.
"I dined at my favorite restaurant last night. It was like Heaven, only better. They let me in".

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